The popular belle, who is the envy of her own sex and the admiration of the other, has her secret griefs and trials, and thinks she pays very dearly for her popularity; while the girl who is least attended to in crowded assemblies, is apt to think her’s the only hard lot, and that there is unmixed happiness in being a reigning belle. She, alone, whose steady aim is to grow better and wiser every day of her life, can look with an equal eye on both extremes. If your views are elevated, and your feelings are ennobled and purified by communion with gifted spirits, and with the Father of spirits, you will look calmly on the gayest scenes of life; you will attach very little importance to the transient popularity of a ball-room; your endeavor will be to bring home from every visit some new idea, some valuable piece of information, or some useful experience of life.
“Good company,” says Duclos, “resembles a dispersed republic: the members of it are found in all classes. Independent of rank and station, it exists only among those who think and feel; among those who possess correct ideas and honorable sentiments.” The higher classes, constantly occupied with the absorbing interests of wealth and ambition, formerly introduced into their magnificent saloons a grave and almost diplomatic stiffness of manners, of which the solemnity banished nature and freedom. The amusements of the lower classes, which rather resembled a toil than a recreation, present to the spectator a procedure irreconcilable to good taste.
There are, moreover, too many points of resemblance between the manners and education of the higher and lower classes, to admit of our finding the elements of good society in either of them. The lower orders are ignorant, from want of means of instruction; the higher, from indolence and perpetually increasing incapacity. It is besides not a little curious that, even in the bygone days of ceremonious manners, the higher classes, by whom they were practiced, were uniformly taught by those illiterate persons of the lower classes who almost alone practice the art of dancing-masters.
It is therefore to the middle class, almost exclusively, that we must look for good society; to that class which has not its ideas contracted by laborious occupations, nor its mental powers annihilated by luxury. In this class, it is truly observed, society is often full of charm: every one seems, according to the precept of La Bruyere, “anxious, both by words and manners, to make others pleased with him and with themselves.” There are slight differences of character, opinion, and interest; but there is no prevailing style, no singular or affected customs. An unperceived interchange of ideas and kind offices produces a delightful harmony of thoughts and sentiments; and the wish to please inspires those affectionate manners, those obliging expressions, and those unrestrained attentions, which alone render social unions pleasant and desirable.